Who is eligible to submit a painting for an MNWS Exhibition?

You must be a member of the Minnesota Watercolor Society to participate in a show. You are considered a member if your dues are paid in full through the current membership year in which the show takes place. 

The MNWS membership year is May 1 through April 30.  For example if the Fall Show takes place in September of 2020, you must have your dues paid for a membership through April 30, 2021.

Can I join during the show registration time period?

Yes. You are welcome to join any time!  

What paintings are eligible for an MNWS Exhibition?

All paintings must be original work using water-based media. No reproductions or preprinted images are allowed. All work must be original from conception to completion. All work must have been completed within the last two years.

What is an “original work”?

Original artwork must be yours from concept to completion. It may not be a copy, likeness, or derivative of another person’s creative work including paintings, drawings, photography, digital images or prints. 

What’s a “derivative” work?

Creating a painting that looks very similar to another work such as another painting, a drawing, photograph, print, online image, etc.  If someone looks at the original work/source image and compares it to the created painting and can say “Yes, I see you used this original work/source image as the basis for the painting,” it’s a derivative.

Can I use a photograph someone else took?

If your painting is a derivate or likeness of a photo, that photo must have been taken by you. If the  substance of your painting comes from the composition and key components of the photograph, then the idea, image and/or composition are not your own. It would not be original to you.

Are there any exceptions to using photos taken by someone else?

There are situations in which minor elements of someone else’s photo might be added to your painting or be included as a minor element in your painting. This would be acceptable as long as the photo elements you use do not display the key elements and composition of the original photo and you have received permission from the photographer or owner of the copyright.

I found a beautiful, “rights-free” photo on the web that would make a great painting. Can I use it since it’s on the web and free?

No, it is not eligible for submission. You would be copying someone else’s original work not creating your own original work. If the substance of your painting comes from the composition and key components of a photograph taken by someone else, then the idea, image and/or composition are not your own. It would not be original to you.

What if I paint a stylized version of someone else’s photo?

The more you move away from the original photo reference, the more you move away from appropriating or plagiarizing another person’s creative work. It is often hard to draw the line by being inspired by another artists’ work and appropriating their work. If someone else recognizes your reference photo as someone else’s work then it is not eligible.

Can I hire someone to take a photo for me to use in my painting?

No. If the substance of your painting comes from the composition and key elements of a photograph taken by someone else, then the idea, image and/or composition are not your own. It would not be original to you.

Can I use a painting I completed in a class or workshop?

No. Work done in an instructor-led workshop or class is not permitted.

Can I submit a painting displayed in a previous MNWS Exhibition?

No. Paintings previously shown in an MNWS Exhibition are not eligible.

What is considered “water-based” media?

Watercolor paints, acrylic paints and gouache are acceptable forms of water-based media. Paints can come in any form – pans, tubes, markers, pencils, crayons, pens, etc. as long as they are water soluble.

Can I use YUPO or other non-paper surfaces?

Yes. Acceptable surfaces include watercolor paper, YUPO, canvas or board.

Can I treat a surface?

Yes. You can use gesso, gel medium, watercolor ground, etc. to treat a surface so it accepts watercolor media.

Can I include drawing elements?

Yes. Drawing elements including ink, pastel, crayons, pencil, etc. can be used but they must not be the main medium of the work. 

Can I incorporate collage?

Yes. Any collage must be treated with water-based media only and cannot dominate the painting. Found items such leaves, twigs, petals, jewelry pieces, buttons, etc. can NOT be used.

Does my painting have to be framed?

Paintings must be framed and under glass or an acrylic surface (plexiglass) UNLESS they are gallery wrapped canvas or painted on boards.

Does my canvas or board have to be finished in any way?

Yes. Gallery wrapped canvas or board paintings must have finished edges AND the surface must be protected from possible water damage with a fixative, wax or varnish.

What kind of frame can I use?

Frames must be plain, simple, sturdy and in black, white or neutral tones only. Frames with any designs, ornamentations, embellishments, carvings, indentations, colored accents, obvious textures such as rustic woods, etc. are not acceptable. Think PLAIN.

How big can my painting be?

The exterior size framed or unframed canvas or board paintings can NOT exceed 41 inched vertically or horizontally.

Can I use a color mat?

No. Mats must be white or off-white only. No colored or colored mat liners are allowed.

What kind of hanging mechanism is required?

All works must include a hanging wire that is 2 inches down from the highest point at the top of the frame, canvas or board.  No sawtooth hangers or other hanging mechanisms are allowed. An image of acceptable framing can be found here. Exhibition Rules

The frame I already bought has a sawtooth style hanger, can I still use it for the exhibition.

No. This style of hanging system is not acceptable.

Can I tape my business card to the back of my painting?

Yes. BUT you also MUST affix the MNWS label found here to the upper left hand corner of your painting.

My painting is already framed in a way that doesn’t meet the framing and/or matting rules. Can I still submit it?

If you want to submit your painting, you will have to have it reframed and/or re-matted to meet the exhibition rules.

How do I register?

Go to the MNWS website home page. Under the Exhibitions Tab click on the show you wish to enter: Spring or Fall.

Details on how to register will be available on each page approximately two to three months before that show opens.

Do I have to register online or can I mail a paper form?

Registration is available ONLINE only. You may choose to pay the registration fee with a credit card online or mail in a check. See each show’s webpage under the Exhibitions tab for more details.

What kind of digital image do I have to supply?

Digital images should be in a JPEG format and no larger than 3.5 MB to send via email to the show chairperson. The image must be of the painting ONLY with no mat or frame visible.


On a Mac Using Preview:
    1. Select the image file you want to resize.
    2. Right-click/select Open with Preview
    3. Go to Tools, then Adjust Size.
    4. Choose Fit Into Custom and resize the image to 1200 pixels or larger on the longest
    5. Click OK.

    On A PC Computer:
     1.Select the image you want to resize.
     2. Go to the toolbar and select Edit Pictures.
     3. Go to Change Picture Size and click Resize.
     4. Choose Custom and resize to 1200 pixels or larger on the longest side

Does MNWS receive a commission if my painting sells at an Exhibition?

No. However, each gallery we use will usually charge a commission. Most are 40 to 50%.  The galleries set these rates. The exact rate will be communicated on the show’s webpage as part of the registration process.

What is the Minnesota Watercolor Society Show Submission Rules Agreement?

All entrants in MNWS Exhibitions are required to read and agree to our show rules as part of the submission process. This ensures that all entrants are aware of the rules and can follow them in good faith. We encourage entrants to READ and UNDERSTAND this document BEFORE deciding what painting(s) they wish to enter. Click here to view the document.

What criteria will you use to decide if someone has not followed the show rules?  

It is not the aim of MNWS to police artwork or the art making process. We trust that all artists will do their very best to respect our rules and follow them.

But when there is clear evidence of a rule not be followed, a painting may be rejected by the show chair when the image is sent at registration. Show chairs may also choose not to accept a painting at drop-off. If the painting received an award before the rule non-compliance was discovered, the award may be rescinded.  Fees will not be refunded.

Are these rules similar to other arts organizations?

Yes. MNWS rules are almost identical to the American Watercolor Society, the National Watercolor Society, the Transparent Watercolor Society and the Northstar Watermedia Society. Some of those groups have stricter framing standards and stricter penalties for rules non-compliance.